IELTS

IELTS Test: a Complete Guide

What is IELTS Test?

IELTS is the acronym of International English Language Testing System. It is the world’s most popular English language proficiency test for those who speak English as a second language. The objectives of the test vary according to the person who is undergoing exam or his intention of visit to that country.  It depends on whether he is going for study, for work or he is migrating. More than 10,000 organizations are recognizing the IELTS test, including educational institutions, professional associations, employers, and governments, in more than 100 countries around the globe. More than one million candidates took the exam every year.

 In past IELTS test was paper based but now there is an alternate option for the candidates. There is a choice for students to take test either on computer or on paper. The format and content of the test is same for both the options. IELTS test is classified into two categories: IELTS Test for Academic Purpose and IELTS Test for General Purpose. Candidates are to be careful while choosing module for their respective test.

Why Candidates Should Choose IELTS Testing System?

World’s most popular universities and colleges will accept candidate’s IELTS results as authentic and an evidence of candidates’ English language proficiency. At the same time, due to its authenticity, all professional institutions including engineering, accounting, pharmacy, nursing, and teaching accept an IELTS test. Therefore, millions of the students prefer IELTS after their completion of study to go abroad for professional life.

Some countries, where English is native and official language, also require IELTS for permanent residence. In this case, candidates appear only in IELTS Test for General Purpose. This is the only way for those who want to be a permanent residence of Canada, New Zealand, The United Kingdom, Australia, and The USA.

IELTS test is most popular and authentic test for its structure, test layout, and fairness.  In IELTS test, an examiner assesses candidates’ practical communication abilities covering all four language skills. It encompasses all the language abilities rather than any special subject knowledge. An expert examining team prepares the contents of the test for IELTS. Extensive researches ensure this test is fair and unprejudiced for any candidate apart from his background, nationality, lifestyle, gender or location.

IELTS Test Format

IELTS Test consists on all language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Speaking and listening sections remain same for both tests, (Academic and General) but the reading and writing sections differ according to the test chosen by a candidate. The reading, listening and writing sections of IELTS tests are completed in one day one after the other with no breaks in between them. However, the speaking section can be taken up to a couple of days before or after the other tests according to the instruction of exam center. The time duration for the test is 2 hours and 45 minutes.

IELTS Listening Test 

 In IELTS Listening Test, candidates will have to listen to four recording of a native speaker and then he will answer the questions on answer sheet provided by the exam center. 

These four recordings consist of various patterns mentioned below:

  1. First recording is a general conversation between two native speakers based on social context of everyday life.
  2. Second recording is a monologue by a native speaker and this one is based on social context.
  3. Third recording is a conversation between a group (up to four native speakers) set in a training or educational context.
  4. Last recording is especially on an academic subject in a monologue for academic candidate and a general subject for those candidates who are appearing in a IELTS Test for General Purpose.

Time: 30 minutes (10 minutes additionally for transfer of questions)

Questions: 40

Paper Format

There are total four parts in this test; each part consists on ten questions. The design of questions is in the way that candidates have heard in audio by native speaker.

First two parts consist on everyday social contexts situation. Part 1 consists on conversation between two native speakers (e.g., a conversation about ant trip arrangements), and Part 2 consists on a monologue in (e.g., a speech about local facilities). Last two parts deal with educational and training contexts’ situations. Part 3 deals with conversation between two or more native speakers (for example, a group of university students in a debate, probably guided by an instructor), Part 4, has a monologue on any academic subject.

Candidates can hear recordings only once. The recording contains verity of accents of all five English verities, including New Zealand, British, American, Canadian, and Australian

Task Type

Many question types are selected in this test: MCQs, labeling, matching, plan, map, diagram, flow-chart, summery completion, and sentence completion.

Answering

candidates write their answers on the question paper while listening and at the end of the listening candidates are given 10 minutes to transfer their answers to an answer booklet. Always be careful for grammar and spellings mistakes while writing an answer because there is penalty for errors.

Marks: Each question carry 1 mark

IELTS Reading Test (Academic)

In IELTS Reading Test, candidates are to answer 40 questions. Duration of this test is one hour (60 minutes). This test is designed to test a candidate’s reading skills. Reading test is different for academic and general test. Both are mentioned below in brief detail.

Three long texts are in this academic test that range from the descriptive and factual to the discursive and analytical. These texts are chosen from books, journals, magazines and newspapers.  They are selected on a non-specialist audience base but are suitable for people joining university courses or going for professional registration.

Timing: 60 minutes

Questions: 40

Paper format

There are three long reading passages with an array of questions using a number of task types

Task type

Many question types are selected in this test: MCQs, labeling, matching, plan, map, diagram, flow-chart, summery completion, and sentence completion.

Sources for the Test

Texts are normally chosen from journals, magazines, books, and newspapers, and designed for a non-specialist audience. Topics of general interest are selected. Mostly, they deal with issues that are interesting, recognizably suitable and accessible to candidates going for undergraduate or postgraduate courses or looking for any professional registration. The passages may contain a variety of styles, e.g., descriptive, narrative, or argumentative. One of the text contains thorough logical argument. Texts may have non-verbal materials for example, graphs, diagrams or illustrations. A plain glossary is provided if texts have any technical terms

Answering

Candidates are required to transfer their answers to an answer sheet within allocated time for the test. No additional time is allowed for transfer. Always be careful for grammar and spellings mistakes while writing an answer because there is penalty for errors.

Marks: Each question carry 1 mark.

IELTS Reading Test (General)

In IELTS Reading Test, candidates are to answer 40 questions. Duration of this test is one hour (60 minutes). This test is designed to test a candidate’s reading skills. Reading test is different for academic and general test. Both are mentioned below in brief detail.

The General Training test includes selection from magazines, books, newspapers, notices, and advertisements. Candidates likely to be encounter such materials on a daily basis in an English-speaking environment.

Time:  60 minutes

Questions: 40

Paper Format

This test contains three parts. Part 1 may have two or three short texts or many shorter texts. Part 2 consists of two texts. Part 3 has a long written text.

Task Types

Several question types are used, normally from the following: identifying information, identifying writer’s views/claims, multiple choice, matching information, matching features, matching headings, matching sentence endings, summary completion, note completion, sentence completion, table completion, diagram label completion, flow-chart completion, short-answer questions.

Sources

The first part, ‘social survival’, contains texts related to basic linguistic survival in English with tasks mainly about retrieving and providing general factual information, for example, advertisements, notices, and timetables.

The second part, ‘Workplace survival’, emphasis on the workplace context, e.g., job descriptions, contracts and staff development and training materials.

The third part, ‘general reading’, involves reading more extensive prose with a bit complex structure. Here, the is emphasis on descriptive and instructive rather than argumentative texts, in a general context relevant to the wide range of test takers involved, e.g., magazines, newspapers, and fictional and non-fictional book extracts.

Answering

Candidates transfer their answers to an answer booklet within time allocated for the test. No bonus time is allowed for transfer. Always be careful for grammar and spellings mistakes while writing an answer because there is penalty for errors.

Marks: Each question carry 1 mark.

IELTS Writing Test (Academic)

In IELTS Writing Test, candidate are to complete two tasks and covers topics of general interest based on the module they are taking. Duration of this test is one hour (60 minutes). Here are two tasks for academic purpose candidates.

Time: 60 minutes

Questions: 2

Paper Format: There are two writing tasks in this test.

Task Types

In task 1, candidates will be presented with a table, graph, diagram or chart and required to describe, summarize or explain the information in their own words. Candidate may be asked to describe and explain data, how something works, describe the stages of a process or describe an event or object. They need to write 150 words within time of 20 minutes

In task 2, candidates are to write an essay based on an argument or problem. Candidates are to follow formal style in both of the tasks. They need to write 250 words within time of 40 minutes.

Answering

Candidates are to write answers in the answer booklet. Bullet points or notes in whole or in partial are not adequate as answers. Candidates may possibly write on the question paper but this cannot be taken from the test hall and also will not be seen by the examiner.

IELTS Writing Test (General)

In IELTS writing test candidate are to complete two tasks and covers topics of general interest based on the module they are taking. Duration of this test is one hour (60 minutes).

Timing: 60 minutes

No. of questions: 2

Paper Format: This test contains two writing tasks.

Task Types

In task 1, candidates will be faced with a situation and asked to explain the situation or to write a letter requesting information. The letter may be formal, semi-formal or personal in any style but the language use must be formal.

In task 2, candidates will be asked to write an essay in based on a point of view, argument or problem. The essay can be personal in style.

Answering

Candidates are to write answers in the answer booklet. Bullet points or notes in whole or in partial are not adequate as answers. Candidates may possibly write on the question paper but candidate cannot take it out from the test hall and also examiner will not see it.

IELTS Speaking Test

The IELTS Speaking test assesses candidates’ spoken English proficiency. The test contains three sections. Duration of this test is 11 to 14 minutes.

Timing: 11–14 minutes

Paper Format

The speaking test consists on an oral interview between the test takers’ and an examiner.

Task Types

There are three section of the test and each section fulfill a definite function in terms of interaction pattern, task input and candidate’s output.

In part 1, the examiner will ask candidate a general questions about him from familiar topics of routine life, such as studies, home, work, family, and interests. This part ends between 4 and 5 minutes.

In part 2, Examiner will give a card to candidate and ask him to talk about a particular topic mentioned on that card. Candidate will have one minute to prepare and will speak for two minutes on that topic. The examiner also will ask one or two questions on that topic.

Part 3 – Candidates will be asked further questions about the topic mentioned on card in Part 2. These will give them the opportunity to discuss more abstract ideas and issues. This section of the test lasts between 4 to 5 minutes.

IELTS Band Scores

IELTS band score is a unique result pattern that is divided into 10 bands. Candidates who appear in exam get 0 to 9 bands depending on performance in the test. There is a specific criterion for this band score. Scores for each of the four tests are equally weighted. The total band scores are measured by taking the mean result for each part of the test. 

The Overall IELTS Band Score (1)

The candidates get 0 to 9 bands depending upon the performance in the exam. Candidates can know here that how bands are calculated. Overall achieved band score is calculated to the nearest whole (e.g., 7) or half band (e.g., 7.5). If the average score across the four tests – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking – ends in .25 , it is rounded up to the next half band e.g., 7.25 will be counted as 7.5. If it ends in .75 than it is rounded up to the next whole band e.g. 6.75 will be counted 7.
overall band score IELTS TEST

Here candidates will see how a band score represent skill level of a candidate. What are the specific criterions that decide skill level and IELTS band score?

If you want to learn more for above tables, click here

IELTS Band scoring for Listening and Reading Test

The IELTS listening and reading tests contain 40 questions each. Each correct answer has one mark. Scores out of 40 are changed to the IELTS nine-band scale. Scores are marked in whole and half bands only e.g., 7 and 7.5 respectively. Listening test has same test pattern for academic and general candidates so it has same scoring criterion. On the other hand, reading tests in different for academic and general candidates so the scoring criterion is also a bit different. However, Academic Reading tests may contain texts that feature vocabulary that is more difficult or complexity style. Usually a greater number of questions must be answered correctly on a general training reading test to obtain a given band score. The table below shows the average number of marks required to achieve a particular IELTS band score in listening and reading tests.

IELTS Band Scoring for Writing Test

For the scoring of writing test, examiners uses assessment criteria to mark a band score for each of the four criteria:
  • Task Achievement (for Task 1), Task Response (for Task 2)
  • Coherence and Cohesion
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy
Download Writing task 1 assessment criteria Download Writing task 2 assessment criteria

IELTS Band Scoring for Speaking Test

For the scoring of speaking, examiners uses assessment criteria to mark a band score for each of the four criteria
  • Fluency and Coherence
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy
  • Pronunciation
Download Speaking assessment criteria

How to Prepare for IELTS Test

Many IELTS candidates are anxious that how to prepare for IELTS exam. Answer to this question is so simple. Consult these points prior you register yourself for IELTS test; you will be able to score a good band. IELTS test is just to assess the ability to use all four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Some candidate cannot afford heavy expanses to afford classes and ask from colleagues that how to prepare for IELTS exam.. They can improve themselves by simply following these few points.

  1. Watch English Movies

Watching English movies with subtitle can enhance your listening proficiency. Keep focus on listening while watching at screen. First, watch it with subtitle twice or thrice and for next time watch without subtitle. The more you will listen more you will be able to speak English. Try to listen all English varieties:  British, Australian, American, British, New Zealand and Canadian.

  1. Focus on Reading

Reading improves writing skills. You should read magazines, novels, stories or books regularly to enhance vocabulary and try to understand the context of text. Start reading from easy text and shift to complex and compound writing style. Focus on those books that are written by native speakers. While reading,  pay full attention to grammar, spelling, punctuation and phrases.

  1. Focus on Listening

Listen recorded speeches online (with the script if difficult to understand). Listen a speech twice, than speak same wording and record it. Listen your own recording and make correction of mistakes. Repeat it until you are satisfied with your own speech.

  1. Try Podcasts

There are a large number of podcasts available on internet and most of these are particularly for IELTS preparation. Podcasts are free to listen or download and may release new material on a daily basis. You should listen to these podcasts on the move and study wherever you are. The British Council Professionals Podcast is particularly useful.

  1. Build a Speaking Community

If you are living in a country where English in not first language; there is difficult to find a partner to exchange conversation with him/her. Therefore, you can choose Skype or any other platform to find out a partner to practice conversation. Such activities provide confidence.

  1. Play Word-Games

Word games are the nice option for building a good vocabulary. Now a day’s smart phones are easy platform for learning in many ways. If you are feeling bored and want to fresh your mood, play a game on smart phone or on your PC. Word games are easy to play and free to download. Play it regularly if you are weak at vocabulary.

  1. Enjoy Music

Listen to English song. Some people are crazy for music. They listen to music round the clock. If you are interested in music and want to learn English so try listening English music. Though there is lot of slang language in music but you will be able to listen a native speaker properly with good understanding.

  1. Record Keeping

Keep a learning diary. Try to write down what you have learned new. Human brain forgets some things if not repeated. So writing importing words, points, phrases can be helpful to keep them in long-term memory.

  1. Learn Idioms and phrases

Learn idiom and phrases as much as possible. Short sentence and phrases are very helpful for conversation. There are many resources available where you can find idioms for routine life conversation. Cram up some short phrases like greetings, excuses and thanks. Some time it is difficult to think about suitable words and sentence making. If you have enough learned phrases you can answer abruptly and definitely your confidence will increase.

  1. Power of imagination

When you are free, think in English and speak with yourself in English when you are lonely. Imagine a story in your mind, assigned them imaginative characters. Speak with them in soliloquy mode. Record your conversation if possible.  Recap your day activity while laying on bed for sleep. This also might be helpful for you to improve your extracting sentences form your brain and putting them into practical speech.